AHA 2024

Penn Press at AHA 2024

Terrence Malick and the Examined Life

Terrence Malick and the Examined Life

by Martin Woessner

40 b/w illus.

  • Hardcover
  • 9781512825602
  • Published: March 2024



Terrence Malick is one of American cinema’s most celebrated filmmakers. His films—from Badlands (1973) and Days of Heaven (1978) to The Thin Red Line (1998), The Tree of Life (2011), and, most recently, A Hidden Life (2019)—have been heralded for their artistry and lauded for their beauty, but what really sets them apart is their ideas. Terrence Malick and the Examined Life is the most comprehensive account to date of this unparalleled filmmaker’s intellectual and artistic development.

Utilizing newly available archival sources to offer original interpretations of his canonical films, Martin Woessner illuminates Malick’s early education in philosophy at Harvard and Oxford as well as his cinematic apprenticeship at the American Film Institute to show how a young student searching for personal meaning became a famous director of Hollywood films. Woessner’s book presents a rich, interdisciplinary exploration of the many texts, thinkers, and traditions that made this transformation possible—from the novels of Hamlin Garland, James Jones, and Walker Percy to the philosophies of Stanley Cavell, Martin Heidegger, and Søren Kierkegaard to road movies, Hollywood Westerns, and the comedies of Jean Renoir. Situating Malick’s filmmaking within recent intellectual and cultural history, Woessner highlights its lasting contributions to both American cinema and the life of the mind.

Terrence Malick and the Examined Life suggests it is time for philosophy to be viewed not merely as an academic subject, overseen by experts, but also as a way of life, open to each and every moviegoer.